Knock, knock. Who's There? Naming Microsoft's Windows Phone for 2014

Published by at

If all goes well, in 2014 Microsoft will be selling their own handsets running Windows Phone 8. But what can they call them? Assuming they don't want to skip back to 'Zune', and they reject 'Brian', the answer might be coming to them from Finland.

Microsoft already has a number of single name 'brands' that are recognisable; SkyDrive, Xbox, Surface, Windows, and Outlook, all spring to mind. Windows Phone really should be in the mix as well, but it has a problem, in the excessive wordage. Two words doesn't fit the pattern!

That might sound trivial, but 'Windows Phone' in the big corporate presentations is going to look unbalanced against all those single word properties. And while Windows Phone is an established name, it is a name that has many connotations and images.

With the (presumed) upcoming purchase and integrations of Nokia's Devices and Services division, Microsoft is going to have a natural 'break' point in the handsets that are offered, and I'm pretty sure that they're going to want to add a brand name to push their own handsets out into the market. It would let them stand out on the retail shelves, it would give them a way to show there is an OS (Windows Phone) and a handset business (the new name), and it would fit with the rest of the marketing plan to push to the consumer.

Isn't it handy that the 'Lumia' name is part of the inventory that Microsoft is buying from Nokia?

Handy indeed. Given the promotion and recognition of the Lumia name since the Nokia Lumia 800 was announced, 'Lumia' has been one of the marketing successes of Windows Phone. Lumia is a known name, and while it might not be as widespread as Apple or Galaxy, it has many positive associations. There is a question of how much of the impact the name 'Lumia' was down to its close proximity to 'Nokia', but time will tell.

That advantage will be lost during 2014 if all goes to plan, as Microsoft does not have the rights to the Nokia name for any smartphone devices. Lumia is in the package, so I'm sure that they'll be ready to use it to great effect. Perhaps 'Lumia' is a winner when you pair it up with 'Windows Phone' or 'Microsoft'?

To be honest, if you reckon that a name change is on the way, then a switch to 'Lumia' for the Microsoft built handsets with a 'Powered by Windows Phone' mark somewhere on the box that could also be carried by other manufacturers is the sensible way forward. There's no implication of a cut and run rebranding strategy if they were to completely drop the Windows Phone moniker, but they get a clear shot at the 2014 market with a brand name that's relatively clear of the 'Windows' mark.

I contend that Microsoft's branding strategy is in plain sight for all its platforms, including Window Phone. We know that the mouthful of 'Microsoft Surface 2 with Windows 8.1 RT' is almost as unwieldy as some of the branding names of handsets in the recent past... yet we know it as Surface. The same can be true of Microsoft's smartphone business. There's no need to call it 'Microsoft Lumia 1020 Pureview with Windows Phone 8 GDR' (the mouthful Steve Ballmer promised he could stop), when 'Lumia 1020' will suffice.

The teams at Redmond could decide to go with a totally new name and start to build up the merits of the new word over time, but with momentum building (albeit slower than they would like) on Windows Phone, and the majority of sales coming from Nokia built handsets (notably the Lumia 520 and variants), it would be a courageous decision to burn the Lumia name and bring in something new.

Arguably, Microsoft simply no longer has the time to educate the public on new brand names or build good intentions. The cards they've been played all say Lumia on the back of them. Surface. Xbox. Outlook. Office. SkyDrive, Lumia. That has a nice ring to it, they all fit together, and frankly Microsoft has bigger issues to sweat over than a new name to replace one that is already working well.